Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

11 thoughts on “Intercultural marriages; where to live?

  1. Although you may have been rushed to write this post, it is very much incomplete. As a reader of your blog when you resided in Kuwait, you were very torn towards the end of your journey living in Kuwait. Kuwait, that I refer to as the ‘ghetto of the Gulf’ is nothing more than an ill-managed garbage dump with a lack of transparency in government, where corruption has imbedded itself as ‘business as usual’ in most channels of society, where getting anything done is a burden. In the end, Kuwait may have more in common with India than the rest of the GCC, as neighboring GCC nations develop at an alarming rate and have been for the last century. After that said, the USA with its failed campaign to combat ISIL/ISIS in the region that have displaced thousands of people and desecrated many world heritage sites in the name of religion, may have more in common with Kuwait than they realize. Reading your blog towards the end was painful and it was very nice that you escaped the carnage of Kuwait, albeit he had a wonderful family, as you stated you lived here for a century. Many GCC men would never relocate to the States with their American wives, because they feel more comfortable living in their society where they are ‘kings of the castle’ in a heavily subsidized society by their gracious governments, but in Kuwait’s case may be short-lived due to lack of diversion from the oil that will eventually run out in this tiny country. Many women have suffered and had to learn to cope in these countries far from the comforts of home, so you are blessed and very fortunate that your husband agreed to move to the USA. It is apparent that you feel a connection to Kuwait and it will probably always be in your heart, but to move back to Kuwait the way the country is being run at the moment, would definitely be a nightmare for you. I am just writing this comment, because when I read these comments from the USA women who fall madly in love with these GCC men that they meet in the States and they read your wonderful positive story, they more than likely think that could be me and you are the minority. Maybe you are meeting other couples like yourself that have settled in the States, because possibly their husbands became fed-up with the status quo at home in Kuwait, but again, I think they are the minority and with one prominent psychologist in the country stating to the press that one in five Kuwaitis is suffering from some form of a mental illness, one can assume that this status quo is wearing on that nation. It’s very nice to read your positive story, but there is a lot of pain in the Kuwait society and not everything is ‘coming up roses’, but happy to read that it is for you and your husband in your new life in the States.

    • It’s interesting that you know this post was written in a hurry… as it was. It was actually written a few months ago, edited a bit yesterday, and posted while incomplete.

      Everything you said is totally on point!

      Yes, before leaving Kuwait I was quite torn. It was a life I had become accustomed to and acclimated in rather well. Moving back to the US meant a number of changes that I wasn’t quite sure how either of us would deal with. I knew in Kuwait we were happy and in love, but would/could that endure life in America? I’m fortunate that, so far, so good. As a matter of fact, it was me who experienced culture shock and required a period of time to become comfortable in my own country. My husband, who’s quite laid back and easy going anyway, seemed to fit right in from day one. But, as you pointed out, this is NOT the norm. And this is NOT what women marrying men from the GCC should expect — for all the reasons you’ve pointed out, and many more.

      I often write these posts about our marriage in hopes of bridging cultural gaps, or easing minds of those who are involved with Arabs or Muslims. I suppose I hope to break the stereotype mold for those who follow my blog. But in NO WAY do I want women to think my situation is typical. It’s not a pattern that women who marry Arab men should expect to follow. But it is our story of a couple who managed to make a unique situation work for us.

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

  2. I agree with your post, although I am the opposite, more home in Oman, and not willing to go back to Canada (albeit where I lived in Canada was quite anti-not white people so, meh). I think a man if he loves his wife, he’ll go with her, but him being happy where she is, is another thing entirely… Your husband sounds interesting, but then, I am not in Kuwait, though I imagine Oman has a lot of the same problems…

    • Thank you for your comment!

      There were several underlying reasons as to why I wanted to move back to the US. One being that my parents are aging and I felt it was very important for me to be there with them, oversee things when necessary, and just spend the quality time with them I had missed out on during my time overseas. I’m an only child, so my presence is more important than if I had the support of siblings. Also, there were a number of things I missed about the US; clean air, weather patterns, inexpensive shopping, and simple random smiles with strangers for no other reason than to be kind.

      My husband, on the other hand, had never really meshed with his culture. Kuwait seems to be going through never-ending changes yet always standing still. It’s the fastest non-moving country I’ve ever experienced if that makes any sense. My husband protested for women’s rights years ago, always encouraged female family members to study, worked very hard to become successful though he really didn’t have to work at all if he didn’t want to, and dreaded every moment he had to spend in a dewaniya. His values were more in line with my culture and he felt more ‘Western’ than anything else. It didn’t prevent me from having concerns prior to moving to the US, but he’s managed to fit right in from day one.

  3. Random friendly smiles (that’s why I love Oman and HATE Canada). In Canada I get random glares, and here, smiles…. I felt different in Abu Dhabi, and and other smaller Emirates, but in Oman and Dubai Omanis and Emiratis and EXPATS are friendly… I guess that’s something huge. It may seem random, but it is a deciding factor… I have different experiences in Abu Dhabi… which makes me sad—similar to how some friends described Qatar and Kuwait and Riyadh…. But the dewaniyia here sucks still… Materialism is way less rampant… maybe because we have less oil money or people are more afraid of “the evil eye” I dunno;).

    If my parents needed me I’d love to be there, so I so get that. Clean air I have in Muscat, albeit dusty… and inespensive shopping… So yeah. But I get that.

    I hope you both remain happy where you’ve ended up.

    • From what I experienced Oman is quite different than Kuwait. Or any of the other GCC countries for that matter. Abu Dhabi was one of my favorites Emirates and, in my opinion, shared a lot of similarities to Kuwait. I prefer a more cultural type of environment and Kuwait always seemed to offer that in one way or another.

      I’m so happy you’ve acclimated so well in your new life. You seem very happy and that’s always a great thing!

    • Hi there! I wish I could provide an answer based on experience but my experience with Moroccans in general is very limited to vacations, tourism, etc. However, with such a rich culture filled with so much history I suspect you’re wonderful people. I had a very good friend in Abu Dhabi who was originally from Morocco. She was perhaps one of the most gorgeous (inside and out) people I had ever met.

  4. Just came across your blog. You say your husband never meshed with his culture. Not sure how you believe that one. But reading the story of the American taking you for a ride explains that one. First off , the American woman you spent money on and endured screaming fits when you confronted her on the lies, was very well a full blown narcissist. So, if you didn’t know that then you should start studying on it now. Would like to know what your husband does for a living and does he pay all the bills like a Muslim should. I hope you are watching all the money. No such thing as a middle eastern Muslim not meshing. Ever. He’s good at fooling you. For now. Does he have money savings in his country? Do you know everything. They have plenty of secrets, and he will mesh with his sisters or mom or aunts before he will mesh with you. You are a opportunity for him. Stays of being married to you or whatever. That’s it. Love is blind. Sock that money away.

    • It’s very disheartening that you have such a poor opinion of all Arab men. Not only does my husband provide absolutely everything I could want or need, but I am the one who manages all aspects of income, assets, and debt. I don’t hide assets from my husband just as he doesn’t hide them from me. I have no reason to ‘sock money away’ — my husband has ensured, should something happen to him, I will be well cared for. And of course he meshes with his family (just as I do), it’s his culture he’s never felt fully comfortable in. My husband is very forward thinking, progressive, and intellectual. He doesn’t believe in some of the less progressive ideas some people from his culture have.

      Thank you for your concern. It’s, ummm, well intended I’m sure 🙂

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